This year was a pivotal year for Polish hockey. For many players that frequented the list last year or in the years past it was onto full-time professional hockey in Poland or testing their skills in another countries highest junior league, while plenty of players arose to challenge and cemented themselves as future pillars of the national team plenty of players couldn’t live up to their expectations causing drastic changes to the rankings.
This is not the time I wanted to start the list, as the World Championship and U18 World Championship are a great way for players to improve their stock, the U18 World Championship being the first significant exposure for a lot of players. Due to the coronavirus, there are no more tournaments, and hockey is done for the year. Polish hockey itself faces an uncertain future as the virus will leave a lasting effect for years to come.
The real world is a very dark and scary place right now, but I want to look forward to the future while stuck at home. The future of the Polish national team is something that fans should be excited about. I have maintained for years that Poland has more young talent right now then it did any other time this century. I still stand by that opinion today. Poland saw their ace prospect prove himself in professional North American hockey, another NHL draft prospect rise, and a vast increase in depth. Today we start our ranking of the top 50 Men’s U23 players in Poland.
Players had to be under the age of 23 and at least 16-years-old on March 27th, 2020. Players are judged based on a combination of career history, current play, and potential. While a majority of the ranking is my own opinion, numerous people in the Polish hockey world contributed their thoughts on players. 140 players were considered for the list and scouted. 80 players received a ranking, players 80-51 will be revealed at the end of the series in the breakdown article. Only the top 50 players receive a scouting report.
Rank – Player Name (Position), Age During Next Hockey Season, Team (Ranking in 2019, change in ranking)
40 – Szymon Mularczyk (F), 21, KH GKS Katowice, (61, +21)
Mularczyk was able to escape a terrible season with Polonia Bytom and come out strong with GKS Katowice. The 5’11 forward has always seemingly been on the cusp of being a really promising player. He is the first player on this list to suffer from Janow’s effect on PHL scoring. Janow was so bad this year that players were able to post new career highs thanks to a couple games against Janow. This year Mularczyk posted 14 points (4-10-14) in 40 games, up from his total of nine points last year. He posted five of those points against Janow. Which without them is the same as his nine points from last year. It creates a muddy area of how much growth did he really have statistically? It was still twelfth in points among all PHL U23 skaters.
39 – Marcin Płachetka (F), 19, JKH GKS Jastrzebie, (26, -13)
Płachetka earned a very high ranking last year due to a fantastic international performance. I was expecting big things out of him this year, but it was a pretty quiet club season. He was able to play in 13 PHL games, twelve with PZHL U23 and one with JKH GKS Jastrzebie, where he recorded a single assist. In the MHL, he didn’t produce much better with five points (2-3-5) in 11 games. He did have nine points (3-6-9) in eight games while appearing for the Polish U18 squad that plays in the third tier Czech U20 league. He received some U20 team consideration and scored versus Lithuania at a four nations U20 tournament.
38 – Bartosz Florczak (D), 18, UKS Sanok, (55, +17)
Florczak would have really shown his two-way abilities off at the U18s if he had the chance. He has a lot of talent but is still very raw at times. His development time will probably be a bit uneasy compared to other defenders, but you really have the makings of a good player. He got an extended look for the U20 World Championship squad, and even I had him on the squad as a seventh defenseman. In total this year, he posted two assists in nine games for PZHL U23. Well above a point per game at the U18 level, and nine points (3-6-9) in 13 MHL games for Sanok.
37 – Łukasz Kamiński (F), 21, Cracovia Krakow, (18, -19)
Kamiński really excelled in the PHL last year as a 19-year-old recording 17 points (9-8-17) in 47 games. The league took a step up this year, and Kamiński didn’t step up with it. This year he recorded four points (1-3-4) in 41 games. He found himself mostly relegated to the fourth line. He needs to play, and if Krakow isn’t going to give him a more substantial chance, it might be time to take a similar route to Jakub Blanik, who left JKH GKS Jastrzebie for Zaglebie Sosnowiec. He has a really nice offensive game, and I don’t understand why Cracovia didn’t try to use it more.
36 – Karol Biłas (D), 18, UKS Sanok, (Unranked)
From one talented Sanok two way defensemen to another. It really is astounding how quickly Sanok has started producing excellent youth talent with no PHL club. I think that Slovakia’s third tier league is an excellent place for young talent, and you’ll see more Sanok players on this list because of that. It lets young players play against men, but not be overwhelmed, and the stakes a lower, allowing them to make mistakes and learn from them. Something that defensemen like Biłas desperately need to do to grow.
Biłas needs more work on the defensive end but has really shown a jaw-dropping offensive game. He is a lot like Florczak in being a little raw on both ends, but I like his offensive side more. No matter where he went, the 5’11 defensemen put up numbers, 20 points in (4-16-12) 19 MHL games, 14 points (4-10-14) in eight U18 games, seven assist in 15 Slovakia3 games, and both a goal and assist in ten PZHL u23 games. This earned him a spot on the Polish U20 team for the U20 World Championships, where he scored one goal on six shots in five games. I have to imagine he would have put up some outrageous numbers for a defenseman at the U18s. I believe Biłas will be quickly rising up this list for years to come.
35 – Patryk Pelaczyk (F), 22, JKH GKS Jastrzebie, (46, +11)
At 6’5, Pelaczyk stands as the tallest Polish forward in the entire PHL. He continues to learn how to use his size more to his advantage. In 45 games, he recorded 11 points (5-6-11). This year he was able to play a majority of the season with JKH GKS Jastrzebie, he assisted them to a winning the Visegrad Cup with one goal in six games. The big forward is earning his spot on an extremely competitive Jastrzebie roster. His size will always provide value to any team, but he is starting to bring so much more.
34 – Jan Krzyżek (F), 19, MOSM Tychy, (44, +10)
Krzyżek is really developing as a solid all-around player. He has solid offensive instincts, solid shot, good forechecking, and great size at 6’3. The Aachen native has played in the Tychy system his entire career but has not been able to reach with PHL with GKS Tychy yet. This season he appeared in 18 PHL games for PZHL u23, recording three goals. In the Czech U20 third league, he recorded 12 points (7-5-12) in 8 games for Poland U18. In the MHL, he recorded 30 points (15-15-30) in 15 games for Mosm Tychy. Krzyżek represented Poland this year at the U20 World Championship, recording three assists in five games. He should be one of the key forwards on the team next year.
33 – Karol Sterbenz (F), 17, Okanagan HC Europe U20, (Unranked)
This year there were quite a few Polish players that joined Austrian junior leagues. Olaf Koslicki stayed with the Vienna Capitals, while Karol Sterbenz and Leon Zacharewicz joined the Okanagan HC program. European Okanagan HC has multiple teams that compete in top Austrian junior leagues. The teams are made up of mainly international players from all over Europe, including the highest newly ranked player on this year’s list.
As a 16-year-old, Sterbenz split the year between Okanagan’s U18 and their U20 team. At the U18 level, he recorded 22 points (8-14-22) in 21 games. While at the U20 level, he posted 14 points (6-8-14) in 24 games. This ranked thirty-second in the league, and eleventh among players under 18. Sterbenz represented Poland earlier this year at a U18 and U17 tournament. He would have most likely made his IIHF debut for Poland at the U18s.
32 – Konrad Filipek (F), 20, UKS Sanok, (68, +36)
Filipek makes a massive jump on the list after a fantastic year with Sanok. The explosive forward improved on his 18 point performance last year with 25 points (11-14-15) in 19 games. This was 39th in the Slovakia third league and the most by any U20 player in the league. He also proved he was too good for Poland’s MHL by recording 61 points (30-31-61) in 20 games, an average of just over three points per game. He also appeared in six games for PZHL U23 recording one assist. I really hope to see Filipek get some more significant chances next year, as he was so offensively dominant at the lower levels, and did fine with three points (2-1-3) in five games at the U20 World Championship.
31 – Sebastian Lipiński (G), 20, Unia Oswiecim, (19, -12)
Lipiński is the highest-ranked goalie on the list but had somewhat of a down year compared to expectations. After a very promising appearance at the previous U20 World Championship, Lipiński struggled mightily recording a .819 SV% in four games. The worst among goalies that played at least 40% of their team’s minutes. In the PHL, Lipiński split the year between Unia Oswiecim and PZHL U23. In 18 total games, he posted a .876 sv%.
With Oswiecim, the Torun native played in 11 games, starting 10 and coming in relief in one. In total, he posted a .897 SV%, including three shutouts, two versus Janow, and one versus PZHL U23. His save percentage drops to a .871 without the games versus Janow and PZHL U23. His save percentage was .858 with PZHL U23. While the numbers may not look great, Lipiński is really the only goalie that gets the chances that he does, because of his talent. Since 2000, there have only been 15 seasons, where a U20 goalie played 10 or more games in the PHL, two of those belong to Lipiński.